Guatemala: Rios Montt trial hears testimony on conflict-era sexual violence

Violence varied throughout Guatemala's 36-year conflict, but included everything from torture to forced displacement. An estimated 100,000 women were sexually assaulted during that time frame.

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    An indigenous woman of the Ixil region sits on the floor as she attends the trial against former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt in the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City Wednesday. The court heard several stories of the sexual violence perpetrated against Ixil women during the scorched earth campaign of the early 1980s.
    Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters
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• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, The views expressed are the author's own.

[Yesterday], on the eighth day of the genocide and crimes against humanity trial of Efraín Rios Montt and Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sánchez, the court heard several stories of the sexual violence perpetrated against Ixil women during the scorched earth campaign of the early 1980s.
The prosecution asked for a closed courtroom so that the women could give their testimony. However the judges denied their request. Instead, they asked that the media and others in the courtroom not identify the women in photos or by name.
The women spoke about the abuse that they and others suffered at the hands of the military and the paramilitaries as well as the individual (physical, emotional, and psychological) and communal trauma of the violence.

Very powerful testimony.
As I mentioned on Monday:

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Violence varied from year to year and from department to department which gets obscured when we give an estimated number of deaths over a thirty-six year conflict at the national level. Doing so also obscures many of the other ways in which the people of Guatemala suffered (sexual violence, torture, forced displacement, generalized terror, etc). It also obscures the ways in which individuals and communities still live with the suffering thirty years later. An estimated 100,000 women of all ages were sexually assaulted during the conflict.

See Mary Jo McConahay, Sonia Perez-Diaz at the Associated Press, the Open Society Justice Initiative, and the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala's coverage.Mike Allison is an associate professor in the Political Science Department and a member of the Latin American and Women's Studies Department at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.  You can follow his Central American Politics blog here.

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